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Kevin Warstadt, Edward Connery Lathem '51 Digital Library Fellow at the Dartmouth College Library, muses on his experiences with television, inspired by articles in the latest issue of the Journal of E-Media e-media_logo-2Studies.

In the recent special issue (vol. 5, 2016) of the Journal of E-Media Studies published by the Dartmouth College Library, contributors explore the early history of television from a number of different angles, promoting a comprehensive view of the medium and its societal impact.

I can only inadequately express the impact of television on my own life. How many nights I spent camped out, snacks in hand, mesmerized by those flickering images on the wall, I can’t say. Though often taken for granted, television was a persistent presence in my life. It entertained and informed, provided continuity and structure.

Beyond my personal interactions with television, it was also a social thing. I remember when my family would gather around the screen weekly to watch the latest big show. It became a ritual, a time to think about people and morality. It became a kind of instant mythology that gave meaning to a world which often seemed frightening and inconsistent. When I grew older I watched "The Sopranos" with my father, one of the few things we were able to bond over. And it left the home as well. We spoke about the goings-on of our favorite shows over the water cooler. We saw horrors and beauty. It was hatred and fear and love and hope, everything art should be. We felt pride when we saw men walk on the moon. We felt the terror as the twin towers fell. We had these visceral, unifying experiences, all because of television.

Elihu Katz discusses this unifying effect of television in his interview with Doron Galili. “…television truly lived up to its promise—the occasions of uniting a whole nation, allowing everybody to feel part of some great national event, burying differences for the moment, feeling a thrill of simultaneity—of actually being there.” He also makes note of the formation of hegemony, the drawback of such a powerful force. As the founding director of Israeli television, Katz can speak to that power as much as anyone.

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Television weatherman Nils Curry Melin painting a van Gogh-inspired weather forecast. Skit from Multikonst—hela Sverige går på utställning (1967). Still image: SVT—Sveriges Television AB.

Whereas Katz covers the social influence of television, Åhlén writes about the medium as a tool for cultural education. In the case of the Swedish program, Multikonst, television proved an innovative means of spreading appreciation of modern art. However, the creators of Multikonst saw television as only this; a tool. Åhlén writes, “Television was thought to be able to become an important part in the contact-making but never to actually substitute this contact; it could provide information about art, bolster engagement for and create interest in art, but it could never actually be art, because art was chiefly considered a product of an artist's work.” They can hardly be blamed for failing to recognize the potential of the fairly young medium, but to the contemporary eye it’s clear that television can be art in its own right.

It seems that the devotees of the high arts are quick to dismiss television. I must admit that when I talk about its influence on my own development I do so with a hint of shame. Even the word itself, television, seems disconnected from the old, artisanal world. It’s a product of mechanization, of industry, and it’s easy, especially with the advent of ubiquitous reality television and product placement, to dismiss it as a kind of opiate of the masses. But it’s so much more than that.

It is surreal to look through the images of old TV sets on McVoy’s website for the Museum of Early Television, and see the art deco style of them. They have the whisper of optimism, straight lines going up up up to the skies, suggesting infinite possibilities. There is magic in those old boxes, that made living rooms, homes, and neighborhoods center around them. Even in photos they possess an inexplicable weight, and in their dim glow is the specter of a past wonder that was lost in the trudge through postmodernism.

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Image from La photographie électrique à distance, directed by Georges Méliès, 1908, Star Film Co., France

It is enchanting to peruse Koszarski and Galili’s filmography and watch the dancing ghosts of Georges Méliès and Fritz Lang. The figures within seem alive with their explosive movements and exaggerated facial expressions, and yet, in silence, they seem so far away, trapped in the past.

And there they remain. As visual media advances they’ll grow farther away, moving ever nearer the first shadows on the wall. But they’re not lost. The studies of early television presented within this edition of the Journal of e-Media Studies and others like them allow us to hold on to the optimism of the past. And like those artists who dreamt of a technological age, we can use that past to look in new ways ever toward the future.

About the author:
Kevin Patrick Warstadt holds the Edward Connery Lathem '51 Digital Library Fellowship for 2016-2017 at the Dartmouth College Library. He studied film and history at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and holds a BA in Science, Technology, and Culture.  He is a student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Dartmouth, and is completing his thesis on Theodore Roosevelt and American Expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Recent publications include the short story "In the Desert" and the poem "Response to Xanadu," both published in The MALS Journal.
In his work as Digital Library Fellow, Kevin handled the mark-up for each of the articles in this issue, and this article was inspired by that deep work with the texts!

About the Dartmouth College Library Publishing Program:
The Dartmouth College Library’s Digital Publishing Program focuses on providing open access, online publishing of scholarly publications that are created by Dartmouth faculty or students, or are published by Dartmouth.

 

Yes, we are superheroes. And how do I know? TNT says so! Be on the lookout for the new TNT series called The Librarians. Noah Wyle, Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin starred in this series of movies, which we have in the Jones Media Center. In this new television series, " ... an ancient organization hidden beneath the Metropolitan Public Library dedicated to protecting an unknowing world from the secret, magical reality hidden all around. This group solves impossible mysteries, fights supernatural threats and recovers powerful artifacts, including the Ark of the Covenant, the Spear of Destiny and Excalibur." Someone is also killing off these skilled warrior librarians. Flynn Carsen (Noah Wyle) has to find out who the killer is and save the remaining librarians.

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Wednesday is GIS Day. It's the one day of the year that GIS, geographic information systems, is front and center. But wait a minute. That really isn't true. Every time you look for an address, get directions, allow your current location to be used for an app or want to find the nearest store, you use GIS. It's all working behind the scenes in your favorite app, but it is there.

A geographic information system lets you store, organize, manipulate and analyze data that has a geographic component. Do you have a list of addresses you want to map?  GIS software lets you do that. Do you have census data by block group and you want to see to which groups your addresses belong? You can do that in GIS software. It lets you ask questions about your data and store the answers.  And best of all, you can make maps. That's my favorite part of the software!

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These are maps I created using the ArcGIS software. The first 2 are just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The third map answers a frequent question we get in the Evans Map Room. The last map I made just because I like combining television and maps together.

Here is a map of different GIS Day events.

If you would like to see the maps in a larger format, you can visit the Berry Library Brickway across from the Baker-Berry circulation desk.